Abdo Benitez leading vote count in Paraguay presidential election

Abdo Benitez leading vote count in Paraguay presidential election 

Presidential candidate Efrain Alegre casts his vote at a polling station in Asuncion, Paraguay, on April 22, 2018, in the country’s general elections for president, lawmakers and other officials. EFE-EPA/Alberto Peña

Asuncion, Apr 22 (efe-epa).- The governing Colorado Party’s candidate for president, Mario Abdo Benitez, is leading the vote count with 47 percent in Sunday’s election in Paraguay with 66.6 percent of the ballots counted, according to early results.

Opposition contender Efrain Alegre, with the Ganar coalition, stands with 42.44 percent of the votes at this early stage.

Abdo Benitez’s running mate is former Chamber of Deputies head Hugo Velazquez, while Alegre’s VP pick is journalist Leonardo Rubin.

Election authorities estimate voter turnout at 67.5 percent.

The two candidates with the best chances of winning the Paraguayan presidential election voted on Sunday in balloting that transpired without any reported incidents.

Abdo Benitez voted first at a precinct in downtown Asuncion, while Alegre, heading the Ganar coalition that includes his Liberal Party and the leftist Guasu Front, did so in the city of Lambare, in the capital metro area.

Before heading to his designated polling place, Abdo Benitez breakfasted with reporters at his residence, where he urged them to vote to «give the nation the jump it needs.»

«We’re hoping that it’s a great day, where Paraguay’s going to debate the building of its future. We urge the people to get out to celebrate the election party responsibly,» the candidate told reporters.

Meanwhile, Alegre, who also welcomed journalists at his residence before voting, said that in these elections – in which the voting public is also selecting congressional lawmakers – Paraguay «is betting on the future, not the past.»

President Horacio Cartes also voted in Asuncion, although he is not running for re-election but rather for a Senate seat for the Colorado Party, saying that he hoped election day would be «great» because «today is the day when the people speak.»

Elsewhere in the capital, children and teens up to 17 held a simulated election as part of a civic education program.

The 1,081 polling places across Paraguay opened at 7:00 am and closed at 4:00 pm.

Besides Abdo Benitez and Alegre, eight other candidates are competing for the presidency, although voter surveys had given none of them any chance of winning.

Four million Paraguayans were eligible to cast ballots for president, the members of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, the governors of the 17 provinces and the members of the Mercosur Parliament (Parlasur).

Some 15,000 candidates from 23 parties and other political groups were running for office in the general elections.

About 300 election observers from the European Union, Organization of American States (OAS) and Inter-American Union of Electoral Bodies (Uniore) monitored the vote.